Key chicken welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

Key chicken welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

1 of X pages

Most chickens farmed for meat in the UK have been genetically selected to grow very quickly.

This is a problem because fast weight gain can cause health problems such as lameness and heart defects.

Another welfare concern is that most chickens aren't given enough space to exercise freely.

Not having enough room can mean the birds are less able to be active and rest undisturbed.

Also, the majority of chickens have little opportunity to perform a wide range of natural behaviours.

Objects like straw bales to peck at and natural light help keep them active and healthy.  

What makes RSPCA Assured different?

The RSPCA welfare standards must be met for chicken to be labelled RSPCA Assured. 


Fast growing chickens:

  • Are genetically selected to grow fast and put on weight quickly
  • Can suffer from lameness and heart defects

Under the RSPCA Assured scheme all breeds must have their welfare assessed and be considered suitable by the RSPCA

The RSPCA welfare standards for chickens cover their entire lives.

It's a requirement of the standards that all breeds must have their welfare assessed and be considered suitable by the RSPCA.

Chickens can be free range or kept indoors with plenty of space and natural light. 

The standards also have requirements which cover health, diet, environment and care.

For example, antibiotics can't be used other than for therapeutic reasons and all uses must be recorded.

RSPCA Assured assessors and the RSPCA's farm livestock officers check that the standards are being met. 

Informed by scientific evidence, the standards are much more detailed and stricter than minimum legal requirements.


Chickens have better lives under the RSPCA Assured scheme

  • Breeds of chicken have had their welfare assessed and are considered suitable by the RSPCA  
  • They are given enrichment such as straw bales to peck at to help keep them healthy and active
  • Plenty of space allows birds to exercise, flap their wings and behave more freely and fully.

How you can help

You can make a difference by choosing chicken with the RSPCA Assured label on the packaging.

If you can’t find RSPCA Assured-labelled chicken then look for free range or organic.

Did you know?

  • Dustbathing helps remove parasites and keeps chickens' skin and feathers in good condition
  • Chickens like to be active - they can run, flap their wings and may ‘spar’ with others 
  • They have good colour vision

Don't forget that chicken is also used as ingredients in food including pies, quiches and sandwiches.

Look for the RSPCA Assured label or check the ingredients list to see if free range or organic chicken has been used. 

If you would like to know more you will find lots more information about the welfare of chickens on the RSPCA website.

Watch the video and see a higher welfare chicken farm in action!